Today is the big day. It’s El Salvador’s 190th year of Independence. There was going to be a performance in the park and the schools were going to parade around town. I got to school by 7:15 to help get kids lined up. A little after 7:30am everyone was lined up and we started filing kids onto the street outside the school. Every teacher was put in charge of a specific “block” of kids for when we were marching, including me. We tried to make sure they didn’t goof off and also that they stayed in formation. By 7:45am we marched all the way to the city center/park in Berlín.
When we got there I moved up to the front so I could take pictures and see what was going on. It was really hot outside. I felt bad for the kids in their band uniforms and the kids carrying the flags. Little by little the other schools in Berlín showed up. My school, the boy’s school, is a public school. There is also a public girl’s school in Berlín. Those are the only two public schools for kids in 1st to 9th grade in town not including the marginalized schools. The kindergarten school showed up as did the several private schools and the high school.
Lined up in front of the school
Marching to the park
We've arrived at the park
The stage area
Lots of blue
The band is in white
Around 8:30am the celebration started. One of the teachers from my school, Eduardo, spoke briefly about Independence Day. Then there was a grand entrance of the mayor of Berlín accompanied by two queens. One is the Queen of Berlín who was crowned this past March at the patron saint festival. The other (I think) is the Queen of Independence. There were other queens as well from each of the neighborhoods in the city of Berlín. Following them were police officers, people from city hall, the directors of all the schools, and other important figureheads. They arrived at the area in front of the stage and sat down.
Next the flag was marched in by students from the Institute (high school) of Berlín. Once it had reached the stage the El Salvador National Anthem was played by the high school band. Everyone put their hands over their hearts and the flag was slowly raised. Then the mayor spoke for a while to the crowd about Independence Day. I was trying to keep the kids somewhat quiet while he spoke. After he’d finished talking it was time for a couple performances.
The first group was from the Bob Graham school. They did a Dance of the Sopilotes. The word sopilote means “vulture.” Several boys were dressed up like vultures and the girls had on bright oranges dresses. At one point during the dance one of the sopilotes died and the others carried him away. The music was quiet and solemn. Then he was suddenly resuscitated and they sang about him being alive again. They finished their number and bowed for the crowd.
A dance group from the school of Brisas del Sol was next. They wore native clothing and were holding onto traditional objects during the dance. One of the dancers was Damaris, Margaritas’s daughter. I tried to get a couple pictures of her. At the end they held up their objects into the air. Then came the Dance of Los Negritos. Just like on Tuesday the group included all the usual characters. They did a little dance for the crowd and then all danced with each other. This time when one of them came over to pull me into the group I decided to dance with them a little.
After the dances Eduardo said a few more words and then the flag was paraded off stage. The mayor, queens, and everyone else marched off. That part of the celebration was over, and I walked with the band from my school over to a spot in the shade.
Here come the queens and the mayor
Other important folk
There's the director of my school, front and center
The flag has been taken to the stage
The high school band
Some of my students
The Dance of the Sopilotes begins
Carrying off the deceased sopilotes
The next dance troop
Sihuanaba and a Werewolf
Watching the dance
Monsters of some kind
Coming to dance with us
Parading the flag offstage
Making their exit
We had a little down time before the performance and parade began. I got a lot of photos of my kids and chatted with the teachers for a while. Kathy had dropped by so we talked for a while. She was able to get some pictures of the kids at the other schools since I was pretty much with my school the whole time. At that point I realized that I was having a hard time hearing. I’d been standing close to the front where the speakers were set up. And if you’ve ever been to an event in El Salvador you know that people like to play music and talk as loudly as possible. Louder = Better. This goes for church music as well.
Going to a spot with shade
Taking a break
Photo of the dance group
Yep, those are my boys
Two little devils
Teachers at rest
With Sihuanaba (who does
not traditionally have blond hair)
Got to love the mask
Girl's school band member
Dancers from one of the schools
They are adorable!
After half an hour we got lined up in front of the church. I was helping out the fifth grade teacher whose kids were Los Negritos. We were supposed to keep them in line (literally and also behavior-wise). We ended up waiting there for about 20 minutes before marching to the other side of the church to perform for the people on stage (mayor, queens, city hall folk, etc) and the public who’d gathered to watch. There was a fence set up between the street and where the crowd was standing on both sides of the street. I got to be inside the fence with the kids since I was “supervising.” This was great because it meant I got a fantastic view of the kids.
Their performance was awesome. It was kind of like one, big party. There was fake smoke and lots of confetti thrown. The band performed several songs, the color guard boys performed various acrobatic maneuvers, and Los Negritos danced away. One of the Negritos pulled me into the area to dance with him. So I danced for a little while people cheered. It was a lot of fun. At one point the boys holding the flags of the 5 countries ran around us in a coordinated pattern. This lasted about 20 minutes. At the end the color guard held their flags in the air and then everyone took a bow.
There's my school
Los Negritos in their spot
The color guard
Let the performance begin!!
The band was awesome
I love this photo
That would be Sihuanaba's very
long breast (it's part of the culture)
Only a small part of the crowd
I always enjoy the band
The flags from the 5 countries
One of the few girls who goes to the boy's school
Glitter on the ground
From there we began our march around town. I did my best to help keep the kids in line as we marched. The band played and the color guard twirled their flags. Los Negritos danced around and waved at people. They also attempted to scare small children, which is one of their roles and perfectly acceptable. One of Los Negritos had what I think was a can of shaving cream and was spraying that at some point during the parade. Others tried to pull people from the crowd into the parade to dance with them.
As we were parading around one of the teachers gave me her umbrella to use for shade since it was so hot. At first I declined but she insisted. I was later glad she did because otherwise I would have gotten burned. We bought water for the students along the way so they didn’t get dehydrated. After they all had some water they began spraying the rest of it in the air. Very refreshing. We marched for an hour all around town, stopping at certain points along way so the band could play a few songs. When we finally arrived at the school everyone was exhausted. The teachers handed out cookies and juice to all the kids as they walked into the school.
Parading through the streets
The rest of the boys
I love the flags
Some of the kids that Los Negritos were trying to scare
Walking by the church
It was a long parade
Cipitio was thirsty
Parading by the market
Spraying shaving cream
Dancing with people in the crowd
Up the hill
We made it!!
I stayed for a while until most of the kids left. After that I walked home. I was exhausted so I ate something and showered. Some coverage of the parade was already on the local channel so we watched that for a while. At one point when I was checking something on the computer I saw that Google had a special design on their website in honor of El Salvador so I took a picture of it. Then I promptly went into my room and took a nap. It was a good Independence Day.
Dance of the Sopilotes on TV
Google on September 15